NJPA Lobbies on Capitol Hill

On Tuesday, March 13, NJPA leaders went to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC to lobby for three critical federal issues affecting psychologists today--all of them involved Medicare.  Three NJPA teams met with 8 congressional offices to discuss the issues that impact our members and to garner support to move the right legislation through the U.S. Congress.  Our committed and fearless members advocated for:

1)   Having Congress replace the flawed Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula and alter the existing favoritism of expensive technology-based specialty services over lower-cost mental health and primary care to avert psychologists being hit with a devastating reimbursement reduction of 32% scheduled for January 1, 2013. Halting cuts to psychologist payments is crucial to protecting access to Medicare mental health services. Psychologists and social workers provide almost all of the Medicare psychotherapy and testing services, but many have indicated that they may have to reduce their caseloads or leave Medicare if they are faced with further reimbursement cuts. About 28,000 psychologists are Medicare providers but another 3,000 who once participated have left the program due largely to low reimbursement rates. Read more here.

2)   Eliminating unnecessary physician supervision requirements in the Medicare program that are hampering psychologists from providing to Medicare patients their full range of services within state licensure.  Congressmen were urged pass the bill by Sen. Snowe (S. 483) and Rep. Schakowsky (H.R. 831) to include psychologists in the Medicare "physician" definition. Psychologists are key Medicare mental health providers, delivering nearly half of the psychotherapy services to Medicare beneficiaries in the hospital outpatient setting and more than 70% of the psychotherapy services in the hospital inpatient, partial hospital, and residential care settings. Psychologists also provide the vast majority of mental health testing services, many of which are unique to their training and licensure.

The Medicare beneficiary population will explode in the coming decades. According to SAMHSA, individuals age 65 and older will comprise 20 percent of the country’s population by 2030. This means increased demand for mental health treatment as the number of older adults with mental disorders, including depression, anxiety, and dementia, grows from 7 to15 million. Psychologists will take on a greater role in working with physicians and other Medicare providers to address co-morbid physical and mental/substance use disorders. Read more here.

3)  Making psychologists eligible for existing Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act incentive payments by passing the Behavioral Health Information Technology Act of 2011 (Senate Bill 539 and a soon-to-be introduced House of Representatives Bill). The legislation would amend the HITECH Act of 2009 to support mental and behavioral health by enabling psychologists and social workers to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments for integrating electronic health records into their practices. It would also extend this eligibility to nationally accredited community mental health centers, residential mental health facilities, outpatient mental health treatment facilities and substance use facilities. Read more here.

NJPA is grateful to the following members who devoted their time, energy and resources to attend APA's State Leadership Conference from March 10 - March 13.

Mathias Hagovsky, PhD, NJPA President
Sean Evers, PhD, NJPA President-Elect
Josephine Minardo, PsyD, Executive Director
Barry Helfmann, PsyD, Director of Professional Affairs
Brett Biller, PhD, COLA Chair/APA Federal Advocacy Coordinator
Virginia Waters, PhD, COLA Chair-Elect/APA Federal Advocacy Coordinator
Phyllis Bolling, PhD, APA Committee of State Leaders (CSL) Diversity Delegate-Elect
Sudha Wadhwani, PhD,  Diversity Delegate
J. Oni Dakhari, PsyD, Early Career Psychologist (ECP) Delegate
Bonnie Markham, PhD, PsyD, APA Treasurer